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By Pam Hiller

The first leg of our trip to Nashville began with a Thursday afternoon flight. As Jon spent the three hours attending to job details on his laptop, I found myself increasingly staring at cloudscapes from my window seat. Snow covered mountaintops appeared to float on a sea of white clouds. Sunset over New Mexico’s red rock formations astounded with light, shadows, reflections, as earth and sky interacted. Dusk’s purple light soothed west Texas plains where vein-like rivers flowed. The night sky, increasing lightning flashes on the horizon, thrilled as our plane was diverted from Dallas to Wichita Falls.

A question began emerging in my mind and heart. I felt myself a part of the grandeur, the immense mystery I was observing. On the other hand, it was apparent that an individual life is literally invisible in nature’s vast scale. Does a single human existence really matter?

Saturday afternoon we attended a ceremony naming our former high school auditorium after a beloved drama teacher. City officials presented a declaration from the mayor declaring it Kent Cathcart Day in Nashville. Two former pupils gave speeches describing this man’s profound impact in teaching students to dare living authentically. Approximately half of the people in the audience were students from his first theater class in 1972 through his last class in 1999.

Once the speeches ended Kent sat in a brown leather armchair on the stage, a fatherly figure sharing his thoughts and observations. Amid the laughter and memories, he expressed a few simple statements about his faith, in a way as a public school teacher he hadn’t before. He told us that every morning before teaching he would attend an early morning mass. He spoke of allowing one’s active life to lead to a place of silence where God could be heard. He emphasized that whatever spiritual path one followed making room for this silent space was an essential component. As in our youth, we listened spell-bound.

Post celebration several former classmates met at a nearby home. We talked late into the night describing adventures (and misadventures) connected to time we spent in our home away from home, classroom S-01. As the evening progressed it became apparent that each of us had felt seen, attended to by Kent, in ways that deeply affected us both as teenagers and adults.

So, to return to my question—does a single human life matter? What I experienced that weekend is that each life radiates outward in circles we can’t possibly imagine. While I still felt awed by the unknowable mystery of it all, I also felt more grounded in the feeling that the integrity of each person’s actions is important. We all contribute to the world in ways that are obvious, and in ways we may never know.

Pam Hiller draws upon the storytelling traditions of her Tennessee childhood as inspiration for her writing. She has been blessed with a mother, relatives, and friends who know how to tell a good tale. Book-filled libraries have provided her with endless sources of wonder and interesting thoughts to ponder. It is Pam’s wish to write from the heart, from life experiences that influence her changing sense of being alive.

Originally published in The Write Spot to Jumpstart Your Writing: Discoveries, on sale for $6.99 for a limited time at Amazon.

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